Jay's encounter with a great white shark

After reading this story you will understand why Jay could only think of sharks when he jumped into the Atlantic Ocean on our passage to Nova Scotia to save our dinghy which we were towing and had broken loose. While I, on the other hand, was thinking of a million other things like “what if he can't get back onto the boat, will I be able to pull him up onboard?, what if he becomes untied and floats away, could I be able to sail the boat alone?…” Jay had recently read somewhere that there were large numbers of sharks in these waters we were sailing through and having had a close encounter with a shark in the past, this is all he thought of as he jumped into the water, but that story was already told in the previews blog post.

This entry, however, is about Jay’s encounter with a great white shark. It was early January 2011, we arrived to an uninhabited island on the very south tip of the long strip of islands in the Bahamas. The sea bottom surrounding the island went from 1000ft deep to a drastic 40ft, under water it was a massive steep mountain. As is common for these islands, it was surrounded by dense coral reefs and since Messenger draws over seven and a half feet we anchored right at the edge of this underwater cliff, in 40ft on a patch of white sand surrounded by coral reef. Right after we set the anchor Jay jumped into the warm Caribbean water with his diving mask to check the anchor and make sure it had a good holding, it was of utmost importance that we did not drag, otherwise we would quickly be on top of a reef. I was tiding up things onboard while the girls played on deck. I heard Jay yell something back to us while swimming in the water but being upwind from him I did not ketch what he said, Luna who was closer to the stern of the boat repeated what she heard, “He said, let go of the dinghy", to which I replied "No he didn't", I just stood there and watched him with his head in the water and his back to us floating on the surface when all the sudden he began to launch himself forward, arms open, splashing the water on the surface violently as if doing an awkward butterfly stroke. After doing this a few times he then slowly began swimming backwards without ever lifting his face out of the water. He was only a few meters away from the dinghy which was tied behind the boat, as he swam backwards he finally reached the dinghy and quickly pulled himself into it. As he turned towards us we saw his face was as white as the sandy bottom we just anchored in. He pulled on the painter and as he climbed onboard he began to tell us what had just happened. 

 Luna in the foreground, 3 years old.

Luna in the foreground, 3 years old.

JayMercurio

After checking the anchor and seeing it was securely buried in the sand, he began swimming around checking out the reefs around us when out of the corner of his eye he saw something very large, he turned his head and about 20ft away was a great white shark, four times his size. It had turned towards him and was slowly swimming towards him as if sniffling him out like a dog. This is when he poked his head out of the water and yelled to let go of the dinghy which was about 10ft upwind from him, good quick thinking on his part but his wife was too incredulous to believe her 3 year old daughter, who had understood perfectly well. So then he quickly thought "I need to convince this beast that I am going to eat him otherwise he's going to eat me!”, so he immediately started to launch towards it, as if he were a wild cave man, growling, kicking and splashing like a wild animal, and it worked! The shark turned and swam away from him, Jay kept his eyes on it as he swam backwards towards the dinghy, without coming up for air. It’s amazing what you can do under a life threatening experience. The shark looped back around after 30ft away from Jay and started coming slowly towards him again but by then Jay had reached the dinghy and managed to jump to safety.

Of course it was a perfect place for such a large sea creature to come and feed, being incredibly deep all around the island and then all of a sudden it being shallow and full of coral reefs where fish can hide and feed, the perfect place for a large shark to come and find lunch. Needless to say there was no swimming around the boat during our stay at this anchorage.

 Here you can see clearly the difference in color in the water indicating the difference in depth surrounding the island.

Here you can see clearly the difference in color in the water indicating the difference in depth surrounding the island.

Many lessons were learned this day, for one I learned always to trust my husband, no matter how crazy his request might sound and always listen and believe my daughters no matter how young they are and how crazy their interpretation might sound. As for Jay, he always thinks twice before jumping into the ocean and this is why he could only think about sharks when jumping into the ocean to save our dinghy, even though three years had passed since his encounter with the great white shark in the Caribbean. During the mission of saving our dinghy he had to think quickly and made the swift decision to jump in but after, he did confess that in his right mind he wouldn’t of. His respect for the ocean and its inhabitants grew after his encounter with the great white shark.

 View of the island out of an abandoned light house

View of the island out of an abandoned light house